From the Desk of the President (April, 2003)

“The reason I talk to myself is that I’m the only one whose answers I accept.” – George Carlin

Maybe it is an age thing but the older I get, the more I talk to myself as I work through a problem on the way to a solution or the acceptance that it is beyond my ability to affect the outcome of the situation.  If you have passed me in the hall or been on an elevator with me, you may have heard my mumblings and wondered what was up.  Along with the rest of you, I have been trying very hard to think of methods that the County could use to address the budget shortfalls that are anticipated and how to convey to my legislators my displeasure with the bind that we are in as well as trying to provide possible alternatives to the proposals currently on the table.  Muttering can be a good thing.  So far, I have decided that I will not be leaping tall buildings or stopping trains but I can and have contacted my representatives to share my thoughts and concerns.  The response received has been one of thanks for taking the time to contact them and for the ideas given.   This was reinforced when we participated in Day on the Hill, March 13th.  Each legislator to whom I spoke stated that they paid close attention to the correspondence from their constituents.  They had received valuable insight into the daily work done by public employees and the probable effects that the lack of funding will have on the work that they, the employees, do.  So, keep up your good work of staying in touch with your representatives as it is having an affect on their views.

The most recent issue of the PERA newsletter had some important information about our pension monies.  One of the proposals for addressing the state's shortfall is to give our employers a "holiday" on the employer contribution towards this fund. 

As the article, written by Terri Heaton, President of the PERA Board of Trustees, states, cutting that contribution will create a problem down the line as the less money that is invested, the less the returns will be.  You should make sure to take the time to read the newsletter and let both the PERA Board and your legislators know your thoughts on any changes to the contribution system.  If you are not receiving the PERA newsletter, you can contact PERA at 1-800-652-9026 or 651-296-7460 or FAX, 651-297-2547.  If you wish to visit their website, it is www.mnpera.org.  Take the time to protect your future.

Thanks to all of you who called with your questions about your seniority date.  Our Business Agent, Matt Nelson, will present all the problems with the list to the Labor Relations Department.  One of the lessons from this process has been that the Employer does need to clarify the term "reinstating seniority."   Too many members told me the same thing—that they had been promised that they would get their seniority back when they were reinstated so they understood that to mean that their original hire date was their seniority date.  The Employer can reinstate previous accrual rates for benefits but, per Article 6, Sec. 1 of our contract (page 8) "Seniority is the employee's length of service for the EMPLOYER from the most recent date of employment, re-employment or reinstatement."  We will address this issue with the Employer when we discuss our other concerns about the list.

Last, but not least, the March 5, 2003 General Assembly approved the appointment of the following to the Local 34 Table Team for negotiations: Jean Diederich, Andrea Lennox, Bob Velez, Kelley Leaf and Cliff Robinson. This appointment is being earlier than our traditional appointment based on the possibility of doing a shortened version of negotiations this year.  The nine Hennepin County AFSCME locals created a steering committee for negotiations and, based on the issues facing us this year, agreed that meeting with the Employer to discuss entering negotiations early would be to the benefit of all.  Our first meeting with the Employer is scheduled for March 20, 2003.  As more information is available, updates will be provided.

Fight on - fight hard - fight back!

Jean